Comprising at least a fifth of our top 50 films of last year, Sundance Film Festival has proven to yield the first genuine look at what the year in cinema will bring. Now in its 37th iteration, we’ll be heading back to Park City this week, but before we do, it’s time to highlight the films we’re most looking forward to, including documentaries, narrative features, and even a short.
While much of the joy found in the festival comes from surprises throughout the event, below one will find our 25 most-anticipated titles off the bat, as well as five films we’ve already seen and admired. Check out everything below and for updates straight from the festival, make sure to follow us on Twitter (@TheFilmStage, @jpraup, @djmecca and @JackGi), and stay tuned to all of our coverage here.
25. Stockholm, Pennsylvania (Nikole Beckwith)
Perhaps one of the bleakest films amongst the Sundance Film Festival line-up, Stockholm, Pennsylvania follows Saoirse Ronan as a young woman who gets abducted for seventeen years and is told the world outside her has ended, only to be reunited with her parents and forced to adjust to life as it is. Also starring Cynthia Nixon, Jason Isaacs, and David Warshofsky, hopefully Nikole Beckwith‘s directorial debut is an impressive one. – Jordan R.
24. H. (Rania Attieh and Daniel Garcia)
Part of the NEXT line-up (which boasted such titles last year as A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Listen Up Philip, Obvious Child, and more) this sci-fi drama has been on our radar, particularly after it also got announced to be part of the Berlin Film Festival line-up. Following two women in upstate New York both named Helen who live their own lives until a meteor crashes down, will this be an Enemy-esque showdown or something else entirely? Starring Robin Bartlett, Rebecca Dayan, Will Janowitz, Julian Gamble, and Roger Robinson, we’re certainly intrigued by the first trailer. – Leonard P.
23. Ten Thousand Saints (Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman)
The duo behind American Splendor, Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, will return to Sundance this year with a new drama led by Ethan Hawke, Asa Butterfield, Emily Mortimer, Julianne Nicholson, Hailee Steinfeld, and Emile Hirsch. Ten Thousand Saints follows Butterfield’s adventure to reconnect with this dad (Hawke) in the Lower East Side of New York City. Considering a Richard Linklater feature won’t be a Sundance this year, hopefully this turn from Hawke (seemingly best these days working on the independent side) will fill the void. – Jordan R.
22. The Nightmare (Rodney Ascher)
After ruffling some feathers with Room 237, his documentary behind the theories of The Shining (which was an entertaining depiction at over-analyzation more than anything else), Rodney Ascher will be taking on something altogether different for his next project. The Nightmare, blending documentary and horror, explores the phenomenon of sleep paralysis, hopefully making for a frightening experience in Park City. – Jordan R.
21. Brooklyn (John Crowley)
Following the aforementioned Stockholm, Pennsylvania, Saoirse Ronan is shaping up to have a major year at Sundance with another one of our most-anticipated films, Brooklyn. Coming from a script by Nick Hornby, based on Colm Tóibín‘s book, and direction from John Crowley (Boy A), the drama follows a young Irish immigrant navigating her way through 1950s Brooklyn. Also starring Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen, Jim Broadbent, and Julie Walters, if it’s as half as good as last year’s The Immigrant, it’ll be one of the best of Sundance. – Jordan R.
20. The Overnight (Patrick Brice)
Much of the charm at a festival like Sundance is knowing virtually nothing about a film going in and we’re hoping that stays the case with The Overnight. Led by Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling, Jason Schwartzman, and Judith Godrèche, we’re intrigued at the synopsis, which reads: “Alex, Emily, and their son, RJ, have recently moved to Los Angeles’s Eastside from Seattle. Feeling lost in a new city, they are desperate to find their first new friends. After a chance meeting with Kurt at the neighborhood park, they gladly agree to join family pizza night at his home. But as it gets later and the kids go to bed, the family “playdate” becomes increasingly more revealing as the couples begin to open up.” – Jordan R.
19. Listen to Me Marlon (Stevan Riley)
Considering his influence and legacy in Hollywood, we’re always up for a new look at the life and career of Marlon Brando. This year’s Sundance Film Festival will provide just that with a new documentary that features previously unseen and unheard audio from Brando’s personal archive. With no talking heads or interviewees, we go through his life featuring audio and footage from the actor himself, hopefully helping to provide a complex look at his life. – Jordan R.
18. Hellions (Bruce McDonald)
Seemingly an under-appreciated talent in some circles, director Bruce McDonald (Pontypool, Hard Core Logo) will be returning to Sundance Film Festival this year with a new entry in the horror genre. Hellions (not to be confused with last year’s singular Sundance drama Hellion) follows a town on Halloween night and specifically the treacherous journey of a young teenager as she encounters dark forces. – Jordan R.
17. Partisan (Ariel Kleiman)
Few actors can get us interested in a film on name alone, but Vincent Cassel certainly holds that honor. He’ll be taking part in the feature debut of Ariel Kleiman, which follows him overseeing a closed community and specifically his mentoring of a young boy who does dangerous jobs for him. We’re not entirely sure what to expect from the drama, one of the reasons why we’re looking forward to it. – Jordan R.
16. Western (Bill and Turner Ross)
After their acclaimed documentary Tchoupitoulas, the Ross brothers will head to Sundance with a new feature, Western. Capturing the divide between the two border towns of Eagle Pass, Texas, and Piedras Negras, Mexico due to cartel violence, this will likely be one of the most visually arresting documentaries to come out of this year’s festival. – Jordan R.
15. Knock Knock (Eli Roth)
He further proving his action chops in last year’s better-than-expected John Wick, but Keanu Reeves will return in 2015 in a much different genre. Eli Roth‘s psychological horror Knock Knock is getting a Sundance premiere, following Reeves as happy family man who greets two young woman at his door and, well, things get weird. Said to be much less gore-filled then Roth’s previous films, hopefully his knack for uncomfortable tension is at the forefront here. – Jordan R.
14. Nasty Baby (Sebastián Silva)
Last appearing at Sundance with two features in one year (Magic Magic and Crystal Fairy), Sebastián Silva may be slacking with a mere sole effort, but it’s one we are greatly looking forward to. Nasty Baby follows Kristen Wiig‘s character as she gets recruited to have the baby of her best friend couple, played by the director himself and TV on the Radio‘s Tunde Adebimpe, then a violent turn occurs. – Jordan R.
13. I Am Michael (Justin Kelly)
While James Franco might get more attention at Sundance with his drama True Story, we’re more looking forward to the Gus Van Sant-produced feature I Am Michael. The film follows the account of Michael Glatze, a former gay activist based in San Francisco who went on to denounce homosexuality and became a Christian fundamentalist. Also starring Zachary Quinto and Emma Roberts, it’ll also stop by Berlin soon after Park City. – Jordan R.
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